Pania Wildlife Sanctuary
Popularly known as Chanchai-Pania, this sanctuary is an integral part of the famous Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. Pania Sanctuary was notified in June 1989. This patch of forest, having arid conditions in absence of any natural water source, has given way to abundant growth of grass making the area ideal for chinkara- the Indian gazelle. Although lions, leopards and all other animals that reside in Gir, frequent this sanctuary, chinkaras roam more freely in this sanctuary rather than in the much wooded areas of Gir. The area falls in Amreli district and is easily approachable from Amreli and Dhari. The moderate hills of Chanchai accord a picturesque scene to the area. Here eco-tourists find nature and wildlife in its rawest form. World famous Gir Wildlife Sanctuary forms boundary in south and east while hills of Chahchai are towering in the north-west of Gir. These provide very suitable terrain for chinkaras.
The Girnar Mountains, adjoining Junagadh city, are famous from ancient times, as a place of pilgrimage for both Hindus and Jains. The town of Junagadh and Sakkarbaug Zoo are situated practically at the foot of the mountains to their west. Ujjayanta orUrjayat or Raivatak or Girnar was one of the holiest places during the period when it was inhabited by the Aryan. This mountain is known as King of hills. The Girnar is extremely hilly and rugged with very steep slopes.
This magnificent mass rises in the centre to a maximum height of 1,117.4 m; the highest point in the Saurashtra and Kutch region. It has five peacks sacred to Ambamata, Gorakhmata, Oghad, Guru Dattatraya and Kalika respectively whose temples are found atop. King Ashoka got a version of his Fourteen Edicts of Dharma engraved on a rock lying in the vicinity of the Sudarshana Lake, at Girinagara (Girnar). The Edicts were issued in years 12 and 13 after his coronation. On Mahashivratri, the 14th day of the dark half of the month of Magh, according to the Hindu calendar has a special significance for the people who gather in thousands at the Bhavnath temple in temple of Shiv a Junagadh which turns out to be a big fair and an auspicious occasion, which centres on Lord Shiva.
According to Mughal Gazetteer Ainne-Akbari- The area has remained unexplored on account of the impenetrable nature of the forest and the intricate windings of the mountain. Dry teak, dry deciduous scrub, dry bamboo brakes, dry tropical reverine, secondarily dry deciduous and thorn are the main forest types in Girnar.
Forests had become degraded in 1980s. Degradation process reversed in 1990s as a result of protection and developmental measures. Once the extent of Girnar forest used to be larger than at present, however an area of 179.5 sq. km is still under forests. Forest cover was only 107.3 sq. km (dense- 56.8 sq. km + sparse- 50.5 sq. km) in 1986 which increased to 157.4 sq. km (dense- 132.2 sq. km + sparse- 25.2 sq. km) in 1997. This is one of the most successful restoration work of forest in the country during last one decade. It is mainly due to the forest of Girnar that the city of Junagadh enjoys relatively better position in terms of water availability, in entire Saurashtra.
Girnar was a hunting reserve of Junagadh State where lion, leopard, sambar, spotted deer, four-horned antelope, rusty spotted cat, jungle cat, bluebull, wild boar and other wildlife were in plenty. Most of these wildlife still occur, however less in number. This forest is a part of lion habitat. Over a dozen lions inhabit this area, as 13 lions were counted in 1995. This is a floating population as they visit this area from Gir, which is only 22 km from the boundary of Girnar forest. Cliffs in top of the mountains were famous for nesting ground for Girnari vulture (White backed vulture). Sakkarbaug Zoo is partly located in Girnar forests.
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